Protecting Building Utilities From Flood Damage

Principles and Practices for the Design and Construction of Flood Resistant Building Utility Systems

Floodplains are home to nearly 10 million households. In an average year, floods kill 150 people and cause over $3 billion in property damage. National average annual flood losses continue to increase.

A large proportion of flood damage is incurred by components of building utility systems such as furnaces, boilers, air conditioning compressors, air ducts, water supply pipes, septic tanks and sewer pipes, electric and gas meters, control panels, electrical wiring, and gas pipes. Flooding of building utility systems impacts people, communities and businesses in many ways, some of which are outlined below:

  • Flood inundation can damage equipment leading to costly repair bills. The force of moving water and floating debris can destroy equipment leading to costly replacement bills.
  • Inundation of electrical system components such as switches, fuse boxes, control panels, and receptacles causes short-circuits, corrosion, and possibilities for electrical shock hazards and fires.
  • Inundation of fuel system components such as tanks, pipelines, and gas meters can cause flotation of tanks, corrosion, severance of pipe connections, and rupture of tanks. Floating fuel tanks in flood waters are a fire and debris impact hazard. Floodwater contaminated with fuel oil makes clean-up of flood damaged houses much more difficult and expensive.
  • Flood induced damage to pipes, manholes, septic tanks, service connection pipes, and on-site wells can contaminate wastewater and water supply systems rendering otherwise habitable buildings uninhabitable and can cause hazardous waste to be released into floodwater.
  • Flood induced disruption in business operations can generate productivity declines resulting in substantial economic losses.

Despite concentrated efforts of government and the private sector to mitigate flood hazards, many problems still remain with current practices, including methods of design and construction of building utilities. For that
reason, this guide was prepared to illustrate the design and construction of building utility systems for residential and non-residential structures located in flood-prone areas in order to comply with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) floodplain management requirements.

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